Sunday, July 03, 2005

Chinese Dinner

After a large assembly we decided to go out to dinner with some friends.

One of our friends decided that somewhere in San Francisco there was a nice Chinese restaurant that we could invade. I say invade because there were 20 of us. She called ahead and reserved two tables for 7:00 p.m.

Ruth and I were the first to arrive. It was 6:55 p.m. Sure enough, there were two empty tables. Just then another family arrived. The waiter thought we were together and seated us at the two tables. I didn’t know if the other family was with our party or not since I didn’t make the reservations. The waiter said that if we didn’t take the tables now, we’d have to wait until 8:00 p.m. We took them.

At about 7:00 Lynn, our organizer, arrived. Just then several of our party began to flood the front entrance, spilling into the restaurant and swirling around the two tables. Trouble was, there were more people than places at the tables. Lynn was in the middle trying desperately to stem the tide. But unlike the shores of the ocean, she was unable to stop the flow. More chairs were placed around the table until the chair backs touch each other. Elbow to elbow we sat yelling over the general din of the Chinese around us. Some stood behind us at the table until the waiter could find another two tables for ten each.

The waiter yelled at Lynn to order since it was now 7:20. “If you don’t order now, you’ll have to give up the table and wait until 8:00. Your reservation was for 7:00. It’s now almost 7:30. You must order now.” So we took the ‘family of eight’ combination on the menu.

Plates began to swoop in on us. Coming from every direction, platters of food arrived and landed on the Lazy Susan. And when the center was filled with plates of every kind of food, the waiter began stacking them two and three high. Shrimp, crab, chicken, beef, were just some of the meat dishes that arrived within ten minutes of each other. Every dish was fantastic. (Well, except maybe the cold chicken. Even the chicken head was there to prove freshness I guess.)

The noise was deafening at times. I finally zoned out and began to look around the table at all the happy faces. Everyone was animated about a story they were telling. I glanced up at the walls of strange but beautiful Chinese writing filling each wall. The afternoon sun was streaming through the upper windows. Everyone seemed to move slowly now and all was silent around me. I was ‘in the moment.’

Suddenly Bill’s phone began to ring. He reached for it and tried to talk above the noise. I couldn’t hear everything he said but he must have apologized to his listener at the other end because I heard him say: “Sorry, I’m in the middle of a mob.”

Lynn, his wife and our organizer, decided to open the sparkling cider that had been on the table in front of them. As Bill leaned into his phone with one finger in his ear, Lynn opened the cider. I guess it had been sitting in the sun because it exploded in a sudsy-foam in a two foot radius. Bill was sprayed from head to elbow with sweet, foamy cider. Later he asked me to pass him the bottle so that he could taste what he was wearing. (I just happen to press the trigger at that moment and got this shot.)

The evening didn’t end there. Some of us decided to check out Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, specifically Buena Vista, the place for Irish coffee. It's on Beach and Hyde, just across from the Trolly.

The only interesting thing here is Buena Vista’s policy of NOT finding a table for our group. We had to muscle in on someone else’s table and take a seat. There were folding chairs against the wall for that purpose. We found a table of three and sat down. They were nice folks who talked all about San Francisco, Bay Area, and New York City. They snapped a picture of us from across the table.

I glanced outside across the street and saw a Starbucks. Tim, my buddy, insisted we do this Buena Vista thing instead of Starbucks. He was right. Irish Coffee in San Francisco’s Buena Vista is better than a Moca Velencia at Starbucks.

A morning without coffee is like, sleep. ~Author Unknown